Sacred Review

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Ascaron Entertainment
Release Date:2004-03-25
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric,Third-Person
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What makes a game a role-playing game? For me, it is creating a truly unique and personal character. It is interacting with the world in complex ways forging relationships and alliances, assembling a party that interacts with me as well as each other, and feeling like my dialogue choices and actions affect the world around me. In various games I have played I've built strongholds, had romances, and changed the course of a game with a misspoken word or accidental death. I like sprawling dungeons that wind ever-deeper, trees that sway in the breeze, and clouds that pass in the sky overhead.

Sacred has none of that, so why did I get so addicted to the game? It seemed like the antithesis of what I wanted in a CRPG.

Sacred was released on March 23rd of 2004. The game was published by Encore, having been developed by Ascaron Entertainment. Sacred received quite a few criticisms for being an unpolished product with too many bugs, and subsequently, Ascaron released Sacred Plus on November 10th of 2004. Sacred Plus has been billed as the (director's cut) or (producer's cut) version of Sacred, but it is essentially just the latest patch. Owners of Sacred can download Sacred Plus (version 1.8.26) for free from the Ascaron website. People interested in buying Sacred for the first time should simply purchase the retail version of Sacred Plus, which is the original game plus the patched material. Sacred Plus adds some areas and other content, as well as cleaning up some bugs and balancing issues.

I played an unpatched original game and I didn't have problems. Yes, you heard me right. Look up any early reviews of the game or forum discussions and they will be rife with complaints about bugs and problems. Me? I discovered one quest that couldn't be completed, so I avoided it. Beyond that, everything went swimmingly. Go figure.

But I did have one gripe. After I play a game to completion, I like to play through again with cheats on God-mode, with the very best items, or what-have-you. Buyers beware: not only are there no cheats available for Sacred, but also the very topic is forbidden on any Sacred forum I've ever found. It seems a little uptight to me, but I'm not a game developer or publisher. If you like to mess around with hacks and editors and console cheats, be forewarned that Sacred will not let you. The original unpatched game allows you to cheat with a God-mode, but all subsequent patches lock out the cheat codes.

Sacred is gorgeous. It uses a third-party perspective like the Baldur's Gate games, and the background art and animations are just excellent. You can zoom in and out from a high bird's eye view to an intimate close-up. Your character will look sweet the character models are detailed and so are their weapons and armors. The graphics are awesome, but more pretty than gritty. For example, when you open a chest or kill a foe, treasure is represented by a glittering rainbow that sprays up into the air like a fountain, to land on the ground in a scintillating pile.

Otherwise, the details are great arrows stick out of their targets, lighting and shadows are accurate and dynamic, smoke rises from fires, mist rolls through towns, and every particle is handled with meticulous care. Except the bloodshed. The US version of the game has had its gore toned down to earn a (Teen) rating. Corpses will sparkle and vanish before any gore dare offset the Teen rating that was so very important to the publishers of the game.